Day 48 – Remembering Context

Daily Readings: Leviticus 11-15

“‘These are the regulations concerning animals, birds, every living thing that moves about in the water and every creature that moves along the ground. You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between living creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten.’” 

Leviticus 11:46-47

A common stumbling block for many people in their early exploration of the Christian faith is plucking a verse or two out of the Bible and then asking a question along the lines of, “Have you read this passage before? How could this possibly make sense and reconcile with the notion of the God you have been telling me about?”

Christians who are trying to defend their faith are frequently at a loss for words other than to give something vague along the lines of, “Well Jesus changed all of that.” or “Well that was the Old Testament.”

When confronted with, “Well, does that mean God changes? Are his promises to us and eternal purpose subject to edit at any time?” it is easy to stumble again. I always want to fall back on, “Well, he is God and I am not. I don’t know why he set it up that way, but it is not my prerogative to question the sovereign will of an almighty God!”

That last answer is certainly true! There have been many times throughout my life where that has needed to be my fall back. However, even if true, it is not incredibly intellectually satisfying to a person who has not yet come to know Jesus.

In these moments, when dealing with specific verses that seem challenging to reconcile with other portions of the Bible, I think it is so incredibly important that we remember to view the Bible as one complete story and not simply a collection of good ideas.

The Bible is the story of God’s love for us. It is the ultimate non-fiction account of an almighty God and his love affair with his creation, mankind. You would never watch one minute of a romantic comedy and try to determine the entire nature of that couple’s relationship from that one-minute clip. How much more sense does it make to read a single passage from the Bible, out of the context, of the entire story and extrapolate eternal truth from it?

In Leviticus we see an amazing example of this. Throughout Leviticus 11-15 we see God lay down a huge number of regulations for the Israelites. These deal with everything from what animals to eat, to how to handle skin diseases, to what to do about mold in a house, etc. If we were to read any single one of them today, some might still make complete sense, and some would leave us scratching our heads. Why would this one seemingly random thing be important to God?

Then we take a step back and look at the context. The Israelites were formally a people living in complete bondage. They were all slaves their entire lives. The generation that was free previously had all died off. Here was a collection of people that had never before needed to think about things like, “Are their any animals that can frequently be hosts for parasites and could make human beings violently ill upon eating? What does mold on the walls of a home look like? Does it do serious damage and pose a health risk? How would I deal with it if I saw it?”

More than anything chunks of Leviticus were God laying out nothing more than public health regulations. At that point in history I have no idea what food born or blood born pathogens were common. Diseases adapt and change over time. This is still true to this day.

Context.

Similarly, when we read every letter from Paul, it is easy to forget that he was writing a letter to a very specific church each time, dealing with very specific issues. When we don’t dig deeper into what was happening in that single church, at that given time, and also compare what Paul is saying to what we see throughout the rest of the Bible, it is easy to jump to conclusions that are, at best, incomplete.

Context.

It is so much simpler, in our meme-centric world, to want nothing more than to take the statement, “The Bible is God’s word and every portion of it infallible.” and take that to mean we can take any passage out of context, throw it over a beautiful picture, post it online, and it will share God’s truth.

In some cases, this is accurate. There are undeniable truths running throughout the Bible. In many cases individual verses or collections of verses reflect these undeniable truths flawlessly. However, in many cases, there is a much deeper level of Biblical research that needs to be done.

God wants us hungry for his truth. He wants us digging into his word and getting to know the entirety of his story, not just a few verses that really speak to us. This takes time, intentionality, patience, and intellectual curiosity.

God wants a relationship with us. The backstory leading up to our scene in this epic love affair has already been written. God wants us to know it well. The Bible is not just the story of Biblical times. It is not just a collection of rules and wise words to live by. It is the story of God’s love for us.

I want to always have a hunger to get to know this story more every single day!

Thought to ponder

What has held me back from diving deeper into God’s word in the past? Who can I reach out to that could partner with me as I dig in and get to know God’s truth?

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